By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
We’re hearing a lot about expensive fuel (which should prompt other discussions on conserving it) and the sudden rise in cost may already be affecting your business. On the way to work today, I took note of three gas stations here in eastern Pennsylvania, all with posted prices for unleaded regular at $3.58. What you see on your drive will be different because each state uses a different tax structure.
I’ve read that when you’re in a tough spot, say a bad medical news or a life changing event, you should look to others in the same situation for support. You are never alone and all that. Since many are already considering the rise in pump price to be a “life changing event” it seemed reasonable to look around at fuel prices outside the U.S. The results were enlightening.
First, some math. In North America, we use the four-quart, U.S. gallon as our reference unit for purchase. The rest of the mostly civilized world uses the liter, which is just a smidge over a quart. One U.S. gallon contains 3.8 liters, so taking the $3.58 cost of a gallon and dividing it by 3.8 yields–tah-dah!… 94.2 cents per liter. Remember that—it’ll be our reference point, less than a dollar per liter.
Our neighbors in Canada are presently bearing fuel costs averaging the equivalent of about $1.28 U.S dollars for the same liter, and they are not pleased about it. Recall that Canada is a major oil-producing nation with significant refining capabilities.
A friend in Scotland recently wrote me bemoaning his costs of travel, so let’s look at the UK, too. At this writing, those blokes are paying on average 1.32 UK pounds per liter. But wait, we need to convert that poundage to dollars, and this morning the factor is almost 1 to 1.6. So £1.32 x 1.6 = $2.11 per liter and if you really must, that’s $8.01 / US gallon. Yowch!
Across the water in France, your petrol Peugeot will require (on average) 1.58 Euros for a liter of fuel. And today it’s 1 Euro for $1.40 so bring $2.21 per liter, s’il vous plait. Other European countries are similarly affected, plus or minus a few cents. The highest rate I found for February was 1.68 Euro/liter in Norway or $2.35 per.
So why is fuel so expensive in many countries? One main reason—taxes. Although many nations have a domestic or nearby source of raw petroleum, their governments impose gasoline taxes at phenomenal levels as a reliable source of income. (That’s part of the Canadian conundrum as well.) Diesel though is often taxed differently, and in many places is actually cheaper than petrol.
World pump prices vary widely for a number of reasons, and taxes are only some of the equation. Governments frequently underwrite some portion of production or transportation costs. In some nations, the refineries are government owned as are the actual drilling and extraction operations.
Although Europe is high up in the price tree, they’re not at the top; on that perch we find Eritrea, a poverty stricken emerging nation in Africa where a liter of petrol recently cost $2.59. In a recent survey, prices in many central and southern African nations were in the general $1.20 to $1.70 range per liter.
Asian drivers are paying between $1.10 and $1.80 per liter ($1.63 in Japan, for example) of regular petrol, and in many locales diesel is significantly cheaper, perhaps by as much as ten cents.. Australia’s petrol flows at around $1.30 per unit.
We’ll forego the political comments and note only that in some fuel-rich countries, refueling is a very good deal. Various reports show fuel in Libya at the equivalent of 17 U.S. cents per liter, Nigeria at 42 cents, Brunei, 40 cents and Malaysia around 60 cents per liter.
The absolute cheapest petrol available at retail is found in Venezuela, where you need bring only about 3 cents per liter. Really! How does 11.4¢ / gallon sound? —and diesel fuel is even cheaper than that. Elsewhere, say in Quito, Ecuador, a gallon of diesel will set you back about 30 U.S cents.
Fuel prices are all over the map, as are the millions of fuel users. How does that original calculation of 94.2 cents per liter look to you now?
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